Tuesday, September 16, 2008
FISH CREEK CANYON Boulder-choked and jaw-dropping beautiful, Fish Creek Canyon harbors rare desert water in the middle of nowhere. The canyon’s perennial creek supports robust stands of white-bark sycamores, elegant, slim-leaf Goodding willows, cottonwood, velvet ash and Arizona walnut trees. The hearty plants are opportunistic parasites—earning their living by sinking their roots deeply into the earth to gorge like vampires upon the water that settles into the porous volcanic soils. Beginning in late October, crisp autumn air creeps into the canyon, painting the vegetation in loose, random strokes of russet, ocher and sulphur-yellow. Mottled, spent leaves collect in the clear waters and stony crevasses that house this wild, desert stream. Although there’s no established trail into the canyon, reasonably fit hikers easily can scrambling up the creek to roughly the 1.5-mile-point where a major barrier of disheveled rock denies further access to all but the most determined adventurers. LENGTH: 3 miles out-and-back RATING: difficult ELEVATION: 2,200 – 2,400 feet GETTING THERE: From Phoenix, go east on Highway 60 to the Highway 88 exit (Idaho Road). Turn left at the off ramp light and continue on Hwy. 88 for about 27 miles (past Canyon Lake and Tortilla Flat). Continue downhill on the steep, dirt, mountain road to the Fish Creek Bridge, which is located just past milepost 223. Finding the route: The hike starts near the yellow turn sign on the west side of the bridge. From there, scope out the cave in the cliffs and head toward it following primitive footpaths. Once at the cave, scramble downhill to the creek. From there, hike upstream (go right) among the boulders, sand and shallow pools.